Founded in 2011 by Graham Tait, North is a bi annual magazine centered around a passion for skateboarding and traditional film photography. We first spoke to Graham back in 2013, but I first picked up a copy of North a few weeks ago, drawn in by its beautifully raw aesthetic. I was lucky enough to catch up with him and discuss the background, inspiration and future of the mag.
Tell us a little about yourself, where are you from, what’s your background?
I was born and raised in Livingston, which is around 20 miles from Edinburgh. I was exposed to skateboarding at an early age as Livingston has an amazing outdoor skate park.
I used to muck about down there when I was a kid but didn’t really start skating properly till 1993. Not long after that I picked up a camera for the first time and I was hooked! I enrolled in a photography class in my 5th year of school, so it seemed the natural thing for me to do was shoot my friends skateboarding.
What was your inspiration to start the magazine?
I was managing Focus Skate Store in Edinburgh where I now lived. I was getting my photography to a point where I was happy enough with it and thought it was to a professional level.
Around that time I had been published in two UK skate magazines, Document and Sidewalk, this was around 2006/7. Document really stood out for me in terms of design and photography, so I sent the majority of my photos there, they seemed to like them and published a fair amount.
Unfortunately due to the recession Document went under, so there was only Sidewalk left in the UK. Around this time a lot of new photographers were coming up and all shooting digital.
I shoot film and started to wonder where my photos belonged.I had the idea to start something new and film based, but it took a good while to sort it all out from initial idea to the first issue dropping. I also wanted to make it free!
What camera do you use?
I usually use my Hasselblad 500CM medium format camera, but recently I’ve been going back to my old 35mm Canon. With the Hasselblad I need to use a couple of flashes to get the lighting I need, and carrying all that equipment can be a pain. The 35mm with fast B&W film has been a bit easier for setting up, but I now carry both of them around which doesn’t help my back.
How important do you think it is to have a printed skate mag that favours the more traditional methods of photography?
First off, nothing beats holding a magazine in your hands! I’m trying to make North a little bit more substantial and photography based, and it just so happens that I shoot on film. There wasn’t another magazine that was publishing just film photography so that’s what I wanted to do.
I don’t hate digital, but to me the best looking photographs are from the time when everyone was shooting film. There are some amazing photographers out there using digital but it’s just not for me. There are some great photographers still shooting on film and I’d like to be able to have their work in print rather than online.
Does the content have a particular impact on the format / design of the magazine?
Yes. The magazine is square to accommodate the Hasselblad 6×6 square format.
Is it standardised throughout (the number you create, font, colour scheme, dimensions?)
I usually work using the last issue as a template. I find what I don’t like about previous issues and try to adjust them for the next. For the last issue I increased the print run which was cool.
Have you encountered any challenges, with regards to the creation and distribution of the magazine?
I was lucky enough to have been working in the industry for a good few years beforehand so I had some good contacts. I do the majority of photography for it so getting enough content can be tricky, especially as you’re dealing with skaters! Distribution was really hard work for the first couple of issues as I did it all myself. Thankfully I have a good distributor (Keen Distribution) who handle everything. Thanks Mike!
What influenced your decision to make it a free magazine?
I didn’t want to rely on having to sell it to get it out there, I know how tough it is these days to sell anything. I’d rather give away 50 copies in one store than have them sell only 10 copies.
How far has the magazine come since it started in 2011?
It’s come pretty far, well it feels like it has. The circulation in the UK has doubled and I now have a US Distributor that helps get North in stores over there, which is amazing.
The first issue featured all your own photographs, has that stayed the same? Or do you now have other contributors?
I shoot the majority of the photos but I try to have feature other photographers in a ‘Still Shooting On Film’ gallery that has featured in every other issue. I’m open to submission anytime and will always give feedback.
What are your plans for the future of the magazine?
I’ve increased the number of issues this year so instead of 2, I’ll be doing 3. So I need to get my finger out and make sure I have enough content to cover everything. The winters in Scotland are pretty miserable so I better get stocking up over the summer!